With the gala ceremony for the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards just days away, it’s an opportune time to find out a little bit more about this year’s award recipients.

The Homes of Donegal Fundraising Committee, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and golfer Paul McGinley are set to join the prestigious list of Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award recipients which includes US broadcaster Chris Matthews, former President of Massachusetts State Senate Therese Murray, Irish New York based journalist Niall O’Dowd, former Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer and US philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman along with last year’s recipients Chair of Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd Barbara Koster, former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner, President of the University of Massachusetts Martin Meehan and entrepreneur Fraser Doherty.

Homes of Donegal Fundraising Committee

When two Boston based Donegal men witnessed the devastation that severe floods caused in their native Inishowen in August 2017 they immediately had an overwhelming need to do something to help those affected.

Declan Houton from Malin and Oran Mc Gonagle from Moville along with a dedicated committee raised an amazing $120,000 for those affected back home.

Speaking from his home in Boston Declan Houton explains: “In the days following the floods, I bumped into Oran at an Irish Network Event in Boston and we got talking about what had happened at home and Oran had the idea of organizing a benefit out here, and the whole thing came together very quickly.

“We posted about a meeting the following week, open to anyone who wanted to help and I believe we had 16 people at the first meeting - people from home, but also friends from Derry, Dublin and here in Boston.

“From the first meeting to the actual event, I have to say I have never been involved with a better bunch of people who worked really hard to raise as much money as possible, with no one ever seeking thanks.

“The first order, was to come up with an event T-shirt with sponsors names on the back, this venture raised over $40,000 in one week.

“From then on, people donated paintings, sports tickets and so on and the event itself brought in close to $80,000 bringing the total raised to just short of $120,000 and on the day of the event we had over 30 volunteers.”

Declan also pays tribute to the great work done by the Irish Red Cross in Buncrana, who helped distribute the funds making sure that all the money raised in Boston went to flood victims only.

Both Declan and Oran feel that it is a huge honour to be receiving the Tip O’Neill Award but are keen to point out that “this was a group effort by a lot of hard working individuals, most of whom are unable to make the trip home for any occasion, but yet wanted to do everything possible to raise as much as possible for those back home”.

Oran McGonagle said: “The whole committee is extremely proud to receive the award and it very much belongs to each and every one of them and indeed the Irish community in Boston as a whole.

“Living in Boston especially and receiving this award is extra special as this is where Tip O’Neill’s family had emigrated to like ourselves.

“He was a massive political icon both here and in Ireland so we are delighted and looking forward to getting back to Inishowen to receive the award and enjoying the weekend.”

Martin O’Malley - Former Governor of Maryland

Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley is thrilled to be named as a recipient of this year’s award.

Having grown up in a Washington suburb close to the centre of political life and in a home where politics was always on the agenda O’Malley describes being chosen as a recipient of this year’s award as a ‘great honour’.

O’Malley who traces his Irish ancestry back to his great grandparents when they emigrated from Galway to the US in the late 1870’s commends the work being done by Donegal County Council through its Diaspora project.

He believes that the world needs to be more connected and that this can only benefit everyone creating greater security and prosperity for our children and for future generations saying “making these connections through the homes of our grandparents and our great grandparents is truly special”.

A keen musician, O’Malley has carved out a remarkable political career which saw him elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1999 at the age of 36 and Time Magazine soon named him one of the top five big city mayors in America.

Later as Governor of Maryland, Governing Magazine named him Public Official of the Year and when he ran for President the United States in 2016, Washingtonian Magazine called him, “the best manager in government today.”

Elected to Baltimore City Council at the age of 28 in 1991, Martin O’Malley was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1999 and then re-elected to a second term with 88% of the vote.

In that role, he won Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government Award for creating, “Citistat” — a new system of performance managed government that has been widely adopted by other cities in the Information Age.

Elected Governor of Maryland in 2007, he not only led Maryland through the Recession with a faster rate of job growth than neighbouring states, but for the first time ever, Maryland was recognised for five consecutive years as having the best public schools in the country, and one of the best states at holding down the cost of higher education.

In 2013, O’Malley led the successful fight to ban the sale of combat assault weapons in Maryland, while also driving violent crime in Maryland down to 35-year lows and the incarceration rate to 20-year lows.

As Governor, he introduced and signed marriage equality into law, abolished the death penalty, and passed the Maryland DREAM Act expanding the opportunity of a college education to the children of New American immigrants.

Paul McGinley

Professional golfer Paul McGinley needs no introduction to the people of Donegal, a place which he describes as “his favourite place in the world”.

His father is from Donegal where Paul spent all his childhood summers playing golf and playing on the beaches.  His family still own a house in Donegal and Paul visits often and spent nine days in Donegal this summer.

Having spent five years at college and University prior to his career in golf Paul has a degree in International Business and a diploma in Marketing. He has been a European Tour player now for 26 years.

Despite winning several tournaments and being a former top 15 ranked player in the world he is best known for his performances in team competitions.

As well as winning the World Cup for Ireland with Padraig Harrington in 1997 he has represented Europe on 21 occasions as a player or coach winning an astonishing 20 times, most memorably in 2014 where he led Europe to a comprehensive victory over America at Gleneagles in Scotland.

This led to many awards including being voted Coach of the year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2014 and being made an Executive Fellow at London Business School, the first sportsman ever awarded this honour.

He currently still plays a limited golfing schedule and spends most of his time representing his many business partners as well as talking and writing on leadership at London Business School.

Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards will be presented at a special ceremony on Friday, September 14 in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel at 7pm and tickets are available for purchase frombit.ly/TipONeill

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